Ireland: budgeting in hard times

Whenever the Irish government announces its annual Budget, public and media attention focuses in particular on changes in taxation and benefits; and that is understandable. For higher education the far bigger story, which tends to get buried in the news coverage, is the announcement of the annual expenditures – the sums of money the government proposes to spend on public services and departments. This used to be known as the ‘Book of Estimates’ and, until recently, it was published separately in advance of the Budget.

Yesterday the Irish government produced the Estimates alongside the Budget, and the details can be found here. To see the higher education story, you ned to turn to pages 152-3. During 2014 current expenditure on higher education will be €1.45 billion, or around €62 million less than was allocated for 2013, roughly amounting to a 4 per cent cut. Elsewhere in the Budget documentation some of that is explained by suggesting that universities have surplus cash balances. It is also worth noting that capital expenditure for higher education will be €32 million, which is probably payment for already committed projects and, in practical terms, suggests a zero capital investment in the sector.

Elsewhere in the Estimates there is a cut of 7 per cent to the ‘Innovation’ budget in the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; this is likely to mean a drop in spending on research and the promotion of industry R&D.

These are of course still difficult times for Ireland. But there is a marked difference here between the way higher education has been handled in the Irish Budget and the way it has been addressed recently in the expenditure plans of the Scottish government. A small economy relying to a major extent on inwards investment cannot afford to starve higher education. Making Irish higher education competitive with those economies that could also attract high value investment should be a priority. It must be hoped that this goal is not being abandoned.

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2 Comments on “Ireland: budgeting in hard times”

  1. V.H Says:

    Solidarity is not a word you could use in any way about that budget. In fact I strongly suspect there are ways to challenge some aspects through the courts regardless of protocols stating money bills aren’t open for question.
    You think a little starving of the education sector is the worst aspect. What on earth do you call the €100 unemployment payment from 18 to the mid 20s when no one in their correct mind would say it’s subsistable amount. This is nothing short of Government policy driving people out of Ireland.
    As of yesterday, I will never include FG or Labour on any ballot again and I suspect I’m far from the only one intending to do likewise.
    UKIP should have a look at this since the volume of poverty stricken young Irish sleeping on streets and generally becoming a massive draw on local and central finances is about to climb and stay high for the foreseeable future.

    • Ernie Ball Says:

      For once I agree with V.H. I will also never include FG or Labour on a ballot. Most disgraceful was Gilmore’s performance on Morning Ireland today when he denied that they were cutting the benefit, preferring some sort of weaselly circumlocution.

      Never mind the most underreported fact about recent government policy: while it has repeatedly gone after the most vulnerable (and least likely to raise a huge ruckus), it has left the rich virtually untouched through 7 austerity budgets. A slight increase in tax via the USC (which tops out at 7% for those making the princely sum of €16,000 per annum) and that’s about it. Meanwhile the unemployed, the indigent and the sick are put on the rack.

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